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Secession as an International Phenomenon

From America?s Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements

Don H. Doyle

Publication Year: 2010

About half of today’s nation-states originated as some kind of breakaway state. The end of the Cold War witnessed a resurgence of separatist activity affecting nearly every part of the globe and stimulated a new generation of scholars to consider separatism and secession.
As the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War approaches, this collection of essays allows us to view within a broader international context one of modern history's bloodiest conflicts over secession. The contributors to this volume consider a wide range of topics related to secession, separatism, and the nationalist passions that inflame such conflicts. The first section of the book examines ethical and moral dimensions of secession, while subsequent sections look at the American Civil War, conflicts in the Gulf of Mexico, European separatism, and conflicts in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
The contributors to this book have no common position advocating or opposing secession in principle or in any particular case. All understand it, however, as a common feature of the modern world and as a historic phenomenon of international scope. Some contributors propose that “political divorce,” as secession has come to be called, ought to be subject to rational arbitration and ethical norms, instead of being decided by force. Along with these hopes for the future, Secession as an International Phenomenon offers a somber reminder of the cost the United States paid when reason failed and war was left to resolve the issue.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-x

I am very grateful to a multitude of institutions and individuals for bringing to fruition what had begun as a dream a few years ago. This project was generously supported by the University of South Carolina, which became my new academic home in 2004. It began with vital seed money from a grant by ...

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Introduction: Union and Secession in the Family of Nations

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pp. 1-16

Secession has left a bloody trail that runs through nearly every part of the globe. The very word “secession” is fraught with contested meaning. The term has been deliberately employed by its proponents to connote peaceful and legitimate withdrawal from an existing state and by its opponents to connote ...

Part 1. The Problem of Secession

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“The Morality of Secession”

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pp. 19-36

To say that philosophers did not write about the morality of secession until the 1990s is only a slight exaggeration. Considerable work had been done on the related subject of revolution, of course, and the social unrest of the 1960s provoked a great deal of thinking about civil disobedience, but the paucity ...

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“Secession and Civil War”

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pp. 37-55

For the past two centuries, state breaking has been the primary method of state making around the world. More than half the states currently represented at the UN emerged from the wreckage of colonial empires, the collapse of multinational federations, or the fission of existing states. The rate of state birth ...

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“Lincoln, the Constitution, and Secession”

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pp. 56-75

Akhil Reed Amar has written that “the legality or illegality of secession was probably the most serious constitutional question ever to arise in America.”1 In relation to this “most serious constitutional question,” Cass Sunstein has asserted that “no serious scholar or politician now argues that a right ...

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“Ethics of Secession and Political Mobilization in Quebec”

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pp. 76-94

Most of the normative debate on secession focuses on outlining the central ethical theories of secession, based on theories of state legitimacy, and applying these theories to determine whether and under what conditions these normative theories are satisfied. This sometimes also involves specifying the train of ...

Part 2. The Case of the American South

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“Lincoln, the Collapse of Deep South Moderation, and the Triumph of Secession: A South Carolina Congressman’s Moment of Truth”

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pp. 97-114

Among the complex sequence of events that led to the American Civil War, none was more important than the secession of South Carolina. On December 20, 1860, less than two months aft er the election of Abraham Lincoln as president, delegates to the South Carolina convention voted unanimously to sever ...

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“Proslavery Calculations and the Value of Southern Disunion”

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pp. 115-131

Early in 1859, as the upstart Republican Party consolidated its electoral base across the North, Alfred Iverson of Georgia offered fellow U.S. senators an enticing vision of the southern future. “Sir, there is one path of safety for the institution of slavery in the South,” he explained, forecasting how the secession of the ...

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“‘How a Free People Conduct a Long War’: Sustaining Opposition to Secession in the American Civil War”

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pp. 132-150

One of the most widely distributed Union propagandist pamphlets of the American Civil War was Charles Janeway Stillé’s How a Free People Conduct a Long War: A Chapter from English History. Stillé was born in Philadelphia in 1819; a lawyer before the Civil War, he joined the U.S. Sanitary Commission ...

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“Secessionists in an Age of Secession: The Slave South in Transatlantic Perspective”

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pp. 151-173

Ours is not the first attempt to consider “secession as an international phenomenon.” Secessionists in the American South and elsewhere did so themselves, reflecting on the international contexts of their movements and seizing on those comparisons that appeared to offer support.1 For mid- nineteenth-century white ...

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“The Origins of the Antimodern South: Romantic Nationalism and the Secession Movement in the American South”

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pp. 174-190

In 1861, New York City writer and architect Frederick Law Olmsted tacked a plea to suppress southern secession onto a reissued account of his travels in the slave states. To make that case, Olmsted argued that slavery had retarded the American South’s economic and social progress. In the South, Olmsted wrote ...

Part 3. Turbulence in the Gulf of Mexico

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“Texas and the Spread of That Troublesome Secessionist Spirit through the Gulf of Mexico Basin”

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pp. 193-213

The Texas Republic is one of the most celebrated cases of secessionism in the Americas. Texas remained viable and independent for nine full years, between 1836 and 1845, fending off repeated attempts by Mexico to reconquer it. During its existence Texas had all the attributes of a proper state: a functioning ...

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“The Brief, Glorious History of the Yucatecan Republic: Secession and Violence in Southeast Mexico, 1836–1848”

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pp. 214-234

Political secession is the scourge of postcolonial states, and although in this hemisphere it is most oft en associated with the ill- fated Confederate States of America, secession was endemic to nineteenth-century Latin America as well. Indeed, had nations adhered to the layout of late Bourbon and early national ...

Part 4. European Separatism

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“Secessionist Conflicts in Europe”

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pp. 237-258

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, all European states have in one way or another been confronted with secession. But the ways in which they have experienced secession are extremely varied. In the case of the European Union (EU), a number of its members (France, Britain, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, ...

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“By the Force of Arms: Violence and Morality in Secessionist Conflict”

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pp. 259-276

How does a group acquire the right to secede from an existing state? This is the central question that contemporary normative theorists of secession— including Christopher Wellman in this volume—address. The question I address in this chapter is quite different: can the use of military force in order ...

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“Structure, Agency, and Secessionism in the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet States”

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pp. 277-295

Any comparative consideration of secessionist movements should take into account the Soviet and post- Soviet experience. Although ethnopolitical mobilization did not occur in all Soviet republics or regions, the implosion of the Soviet empire produced the most successful wave of secessionism ...

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“‘Our Cause Was Foredoomed to Failure’: Secession in Germany and the United States”

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pp. 296-316

Both the American Civil War and the Cold War were followed by a grimly waged “war of recollections.” The failures of 1865 and 1989 and the subsequent process of political unification mark the beginning of debates about the respective countries’ former double statehood and the citizens’ living conditions in ...

Part 5. The Middle East, Asia, and Africa

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“Common Sense, or A Step Pregnant with Enormous Consequences: Some Thoughts on the Possible Secession of Iraqi Kurdistan”

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pp. 319-337

At the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Kurdish parts of northern Iraq had enjoyed autonomy from Baghdad for some eleven years. In consequence, the possible secession of the Kurdish provinces (Dohuk, Arbil, Sulaymaniyya, and perhaps Ta’mim, which includes Kirkuk) to form an independent ...

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“Nationalism, Separatism, and Neoliberal Globalism: A Review of Africa and the Quest for Self-Determination since the 1940s”

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pp. 338-360

Since the end of colonial rule, sub- Saharan Africa has been troubled by civil wars and other forms of organized violence. While these conflicts together suggest Africa is a continent in retreat, those particularly connected with secessionist demands have raised doubts about the nature and viability of the ...

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“Did Abraham Lincoln Oppose Taiwan’s Secession from China?”

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pp. 361-380

In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Abraham Lincoln’s stance on national unity during the U.S. Civil War has been summoned up by PRC officials, media, and elites in an effort to explain and legitimate their own response to those they disparage as “separatists” in Tibet and Taiwan.1 The most prominent ...

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pp. 381-384

DAVID ARMITAGE is the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University. Among his eleven books to date are The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000), The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (2007), and The Age of Revolutions in Global Context, c. 1760–1840 (coeditor, 2010). ...


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pp. 385-397

E-ISBN-13: 9780820337371
E-ISBN-10: 0820337374
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820330082
Print-ISBN-10: 0820330086

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 3 maps
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Secession -- History.
  • Secession -- Southern States.
  • Separatist movements -- History.
  • Nationalism -- History.
  • World politics -- 19th century.
  • World politics -- 20th century
  • World politics -- 21st century
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